Tuition fees in England’s universities could be cut to £6,500 – but with much higher fees, up to £13,500, proposed for some subjects that could lead to higher earnings, such as medicine or science.
That’s an idea that seems to be under serious consideration by the prime minister’s review of post-18 education, headed by Philip Augar.
Or more to the point, that’s what universities are privately fearing is heading in their direction.
Before arts students start celebrating a cut in their fees, it isn’t a conclusive decision – that won’t be known until the review reports back next year – so this remains the territory of leaks, speculation and self-interested kite-flying.
But there seems to be a direction of travel towards the idea of charging different levels of fees for different subjects.
The headline rate of £9,250 would be lowered to about £6,500, but more expensive subjects could perhaps be double that at £13,000 or more.
The idea would be that if you were studying medicine, some sciences, maths or engineering, your likely future earnings are going to be higher than if you studied an arts or humanities subject.
It’s also the case that arts and humanities subjects – like history or English – are much cheaper to teach than sciences, which require more equipment and have more teaching hours.